Men's cross country preview: Sumrall leads promising Bobcats

Allen Sumrall '16 (26) leads the Bates men's cross country into a promising 2015 season. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- For separate reasons, the Bates College men's cross country team will be without three of its top four runners, in terms of their finish at the 2014 NCAA Regionals, from last season. Three-time NCAA Cross Country Championship competitor John Stansel and classmate Michael Creedon have graduated, and sophomore Zach Magin (West Hartford, Conn.) will miss the 2015 season with an injury.

Still, 21st-year head coach Al Fereshetian says the Bobcats "could be poised to do much better" this season. "Balanced depth and a strong pack will make this team potentially very good," Fereshetian says. 

Bates, ranked No. 8 in New England in preseason USTFCCCA polls, officially opens the 2015 season Saturday at its home course, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, hosting the annual Bates/Colby Class Wave Races.

More often than not, Fereshetian expects Bates' frontrunner to be senior Allen Sumrall (Albuquerque, N.M.), a former transfer student who earned All-New England honors last year for placing 34th individually at New Englands in his first cross country season. Sumrall is the Bobcats' lone captain.

A trio of other seniors figure to compete for places in Bates' top seven. Gregg Heller (Walla Walla, Wash.) raced at NCAAs as a sophomore in 2013 and won All-America honors last winter in the distance medley relay, while proven veterans Bryant Perkins (Sanford, Maine) and Taylor Saucier (Freeport, Maine) eye their best seasons yet. 

Juniors Evan Ferguson-Hull (West Hartford, Conn.), Michael Horowicz (Montclair, N.J.) and Joe Doyle (Glastonbury, Conn.) have all proven to be valuable scorers in championship meets of the past two seasons. Ben Tonelli (Seattle, Wash.) leads the team's sophomore class.

The team's freshmen, says Fereshetian, "could add some surprises, but it will be difficult for any to jump right in to the top group."

Bates stays at home next weekend for the Bates Invitational, before traveling to the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University on Oct. 2, an early-season highlight. Other important meets include Maine State Championships at Bowdoin Oct. 17, NESCAC Championships Oct. 31 at Wesleyan, and NCAA Regionals on Nov. 14 in Waterford, Connecticut.